What to Do About Tech Skills Shortages
Earlier this week the Linux Foundation and edX released their annual Open Source Jobs Report. The research was based on an analysis of data from more than 200 hiring managers at corporations, small and medium businesses (SMBs), government organizations, and staffing agencies across the globe, as well as responses from more than 750 open source professionals worldwide. Among the many findings, the report found that demand for cloud computing skills has reached an all-time high, surpassing Linux as the knowledge area most sought after by hiring managers. The data also showed that DevOps is being used at increasingly high rates requiring more knowledge of continuous development, deployment and integration.
While that is good news for those with technology skills to match these demands, for enterprises the news is less encouraging. Last year, the research found, that in the midst of COVID-19 lockdowns there was a spike in the number of companies hiring external consultants to fill talent gaps (48%). In 2021 however, this tactic fell significantly to only 29%, with companies more likely to train existing staff in new skills (58%) and actually delay new technical projects (34%).
Globally, the research shows that hiring is rebounding in the wake of the pandemic, as organizations look to continue their digital transformation activities. This is evidenced by 50% of employers surveyed who stated they are increasing hires this year.
Even still, there are significant challenges, with 92% of managers reporting difficulty finding enough talent, as they also struggle to hold onto existing talent in the face of fierce competition. Furthermore, the rapid adoption of open source software is widening the skills gap in the market. This is especially true for cloud native application development and operations skills, topping the list of 46% of hiring managers.
The recent pandemic has exasperated this trend. In a statement about the report Johannes Heinlein, Chief Commercial Officer and SVP of Strategic Partnerships at edX, said that the problems are not new, but that the pandemic brought them to the surface. “This year’s report makes it clear that COVID-19 has only exacerbated skills gaps and hiring needs that were bubbling to the surface pre-pandemic, especially in the high technology sector,” he said. “It’s promising to see in our findings that employers are meeting these needs by increasing training and learning opportunities. We need to empower organizations to invest in this type of training in order to meet the tech talent demands of today, and tomorrow.”
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Talent Shortage as a Barrier
The Linux Foundation isn't the only research body that has been assessing the impact of talent shortages. Gartner’s 2021-2023 Emerging Technology Roadmap (registration required) looked at adoption plans of over 100 emerging technologies from 437 IT global organizations. It found that IT executives see the talent shortage as the most significant barrier to adoption of emerging technologies at 64%, compared with just 4% in 2020.
It added that a lack of talent availability was cited far more often than other barriers this year, such as implementation cost (29%) or security risk (7%). In fact, talent availability is cited as a leading factor inhibiting adoption among all six technology domains included in the survey — compute infrastructure and platform services, network, security, digital workplace, IT automation and storage and database. More to the point, IT executives cited talent availability as the main adoption risk factor for the majority of IT automation technologies (75%) and nearly half of digital workplace technologies (41%).
The ongoing push toward remote work and the acceleration of hiring plans in 2021 has exacerbated IT talent scarcity, especially for sourcing skills that enable cloud and edge, automation and continuous delivery, the report says. John Samuel, EVP who leads digital transformation, IT and cybersecurity at New York City-based CGS, says the skills shortage is growing in all technical areas and that those with in-demand tech skills are able to be choosy as to their next move, creating indecisiveness in the career decision process, which delays the entire recruitment process and creates further strain on existing teams.
While this plays out, there are interim steps to manage the shortage, including upskilling existing staff. Global companies can look to handle the needs of a role or team from workers in other global offices or regions. Businesses may also outsource non-core services to managed services providers or professional consulting services companies, among other options for consideration.
The major cloud providers are more than happy to help bridge the gap and introduce companies to qualified partners. “Long term, it is imperative for organizations to adopt leading technologies on a timely basis and invest properly as well as have a solid recruitment strategy to attract talent and also focus on retention strategy for existing talent,” he said.
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The Problems With the Data
Digital.ai's CTO and GM of AI Gaurav Rewari, points to a recent survey from S&P Global Market Intelligence and Immuta, which indicates that 40% of respondents who work as data suppliers claim to lack the staff or skills to handle their positions. What’s more, while the chief data officer role is becoming more commonplace, 40% of organizations do not have one. This is happening while business intelligence requests from organizations desperate to use their own data continue to increase rapidly.
“Addressing this shortage requires a multi-pronged approach involving broadening the skills of students and professionals to include data science capabilities through dedicated data science certificates and programs, as well as company-sponsored cross-training for adjacent talent pools such as BI analysts,” he said.
On the product front he says there are two key capabilities that can help alleviate the skills shortage.
- Greater self-service: These capabilities enable business users with little-to-no programming expertise and knowledge of the underlying data structures can still ask questions using a low code or no code model
- Pre-built AI solution: These solutions have all the data source integrations, pipeline, ML models and visualization capabilities prebuilt for specific domains (e.g. CRM, Finance, IT/DevOps) so that business users have the ability to obtain best practice insights and predictive capabilities in those chosen domains.
“When successfully deployed, such capabilities have the power to significantly broaden the reach of a company’s data scientists many times over,” he said.
The Need for Human Understanding
According to Scott Hirsch, CTO and co-founder of TalentMarketplace, the biggest shortages and the most difficult roles to fill are those that deal with complex problems that need deep human understanding — jobs that no machine can understand. Like AI specialists, DevOps professionals, data experts, and other similar fields.
For job-seekers, he says, the best they can do is skill up. If you’re a computer support specialist and you’re currently spending your day solving customers’ computer problems, learn the details of the system you’re working with. Get a new certification, or show that you’re able to solve the more difficult and complex problems.
But keep in mind that certifications are only useful if they are in demand and are in conjunction with relevant professional experience, and there is no easy path. You can avoid it by visiting job posting sites and checking job requirements to make sure the certification you’re considering is in demand and is highly esteemed.
For employers, don’t take too long to make that hire. It’s a competitive market, and skilled talent won’t wait for your hiring process. “Invest in people with potential they may not be ready now, but with enough training, your current employees can turn into a highly valuable asset. You can offer training grants to support your team in acquiring new certifications and skills you deem necessary,” he says.